Maison + Malade =

 Homesick. OK. I give up trying to pretend like I can learn in 3 months what a French woman knows after 20 years. The idea struck me on the heels of an incapaciting stomach bug, exasperated by my endless to-do list. I had taken on so much that by the end of October, the time of our trip to Normandy, my body decided to shut down. I don’t blame it. If anyone, I point my finger at my parents and anyone else who encouraged my insanity to forsake family, familiarity, and the following:

1) Mon Kitchenaid me manque. Once by myself, once with my sister, chocolate chip cookies were made with this weird vanilla flavored baking soda powder stuff. Last week was a lovely apple tart from a recipe from Cooking Light which everyone still found a bit lourd (heavy.) Anyone that knows me can attest that I am neither Paula Dean nor a Farenheit to Celcius processor nor a cups to grams calculator.

2) Le système éducatif des États-Unis  me manque: Last weekend I stayed in the first arrondissement of Paris with my host family who helped me conquer Musee d’Orsay and a hilarious A Midsummer’s Night Dream (set in the 70s). That preceded Tuesday’s La Toussaint, the national holiday of strewing chrysanthemums about the cemeteries. To quote my grammar teacher, never give French families that flower and never faire le pont (skip that Monday of classes between the weekend and the Tuesday…) What happened to my lighter, American load of classes with logical breaks?

Ma soeur et moi devant l'Arc de Triomphe.

3) Le soleil me manque : It might be 60/65ish regularly here but I would appreciate seeing Mont St. Michel, St. Malo, Loches, or Chenenceau without the rain. The center of France in the middle of autumn is one big puddle.

Pinch me! (The visit to Chenenceau was surreal.)

4) TUTF me manque: I was beginning to wonder if French people run track at all when I finally discovered a little soccer field ringed with synthetic red tartan! A bus ride from my house, the entrance required jumping over this chain link fence (my spandex and therefore myself getting snagged mid-straddle a meter above a staircase. Fantastic). Reunited after two long months, the track and I passed a few moments of silence in the fading sun before my deathly 600s. Every sprint workout tears at each muscle down to my heart, alone without my TUTFers. (╙╠╣╜= I’m feeling it.)

After spending a night on the actual Mont St. Michel, I awoke early to run amid the blues and pinks of dawn.

5,6,7,8) Mom et Dad et Jon et Mitt me manquent. Nuff said.

Taytay: Found this WWII American troops' board which reminds me that I beat my French brother the other day. You've less than 2 months to try and get better ;P

Euro Zone: Lots of Little Rocks

So I am off to Paris for two weeks and a lot of papers. Writing in French is a huge hurdle but so is leaving the south. I have fallen in love with the Tuscan sun and pace…hopefully, the transition to the bustle of NYC’s cousin won’t be ghastly as Sheila would say!

Saying adieu to my little paradise!

What I will miss most about Aix is waking up every morning like a princess. My 17th century tower overlooks a lush green valley with terra cotta accents here and there. (The four-hundred-year-old house is young compared to the city.) It’s as if everything grew and grew until stone and vine became one. Then I go down two stories by way of spiral staircase. From the library, I enter a foyer, dining room, and finally the kitchen to make my tea with bread and jam. One would think WWOOFing would taint the morning’s glory—but quite the opposite.

The view from my window every morning, evening, and in between 🙂

My last task was to remove rocks from a football-sized field in preparation for grazing animals. Can playing in a wildflower field be considered work?! All the beauties of the trees, wind, and birds are heightened by hard work. Maybe the sun was blazing and the weeds itchy, but the most maddening part was the impossibility of it all. Even three months of digging up stones, carting them in the wheelbarrow, then back again would do little. Not just so with rocks, but also global debt crises.

I admit to listening to too much French talk-radio while carting rocks. As the world keeps shrinking, it would be important to be concerned over the welfare of our European allies. Like two legs under a drunk, France and Germany are struggling to carry the economic woes of Greece, Portugal, Italy, and Spain. The old tricks of stimulus deals and austerity measures are ineffective, as I think could be said of the US. Should Greece get the boot from euro currency? Should a unified financial system be created? No matter how many times G7 meets, it seems that becoming debt-free is as futile as my rock gathering.

 

The latest, lovely rock collecting, atleast the view is wonderful.

This would have been a depressing conclusion for my stay had not Sheila’s friend joined at dinner. Waiting on the salmon, she plied me with questions in between smoke puffs: What is the story that Americans believe about 9-11? What is the American consensus of your debt crises? Of our debt situation? Had you hear of the effects on Nagasaki? Aren’t there still nuclear clouds that cross the Pacific to California? Rien?! Nothing, I replied, then took my turn: What of the nuclear fission energy that France exports? What can be done about the European debt crises? What do you think of the coming elections? Il n’y a personne. No candidate running from the left, center, or right that she liked.

We laughed a lot trying to debate in French and English. Sheila translated phrases like: In Amerca, we are skeptical about conspiracies, and, our schools do not teach philosophy and how to reflect or think like in France. Our conclusions were a bit unorthodox. Maybe we need to redefine la bonne vie? Is it enough to be able to eat and see the next day? Maybe have a garden with what you and some others actually need? Shelia’s friend suggested a government comprised of le quotidian, the everyday man, to make decisions for everyday people. Soon, our kir royales and lighthearted stories resurfaced. While I enjoy arguing with my dad or grandpa, I am always tickled to find the French more than willing to debate.

By the Dozen

Work was a bit long so I decided to set out seven eggs on my counter top. My KitchenAid had not seen the light of day since I began secondary medical school applications and working as a transporter again. But on the morrow was an old friend’s wedding and he happens to be a fan of my (actually David Joachim’s) Skinny Chocolate Chip Cookies. Like my beading and sewing crafts, the project took on its own grandeur adding another couple recipes and a few movies, in French, bien sûr. The whole thing ended in 6 dozen rich chocolate cookies, 9 dozen chocolate chip cookies, some Chardonnay, and light banter with my mother. I don’t know anything better that could be done with seven eggs!

The staple for my summer of all things French= kitchenaid + movie

What can one do with fifteen dozen cookies is limitless. Chiefly, rigorous taste-testing preceeds any sort of gift giving. And I think my family to be one of the best as this process. Christian and Jon are always surprised when I offer a cookie for opinion because of how often they are banned from decimating my cookie stock. Mom would rather rescue all the burnt cookies from a life in my compost pile than try those baked to perfection. Dad slips in between commercials of the Reds games and sneaks away a few. Between the scarfing, saving, and sneaking–the give-away-ability of each bite is discovered. If love languages exist, mine might be categorized between quality taste-testing and words of confirmation after physical (cookie) crunch.  

I rode my bike to my alma mater’s soccer/football field to deliver my first platter. Hungry soccer players’ appetites are a boost to any budding pastry artist’s ego, my own being no exception. Around 2:50, another few dozen made their way to the basement of my church where my friend, the reason for all this culinary nonsense and the dandy groom of the day, was preparing to see his bride. I still have a couple more trips to make–one to Sunday School and another to a new friend and finally a third, half-way between Indy and Ohio, to an old friend–all with cookies in hand. There is something fulfilling about baking with others in mind and then seeing the smiles actualized. Many things in life can begin with something as small as seven eggs and find their way to people of all ages and places and situations. And like des petits gateaux, kindness is the gift with dividends.

After dancing and eating cake, the most adorable concept at the reception, decorating fabric squares for a wedding quilt (mine was French-inspired 🙂